Blues-ing on the Brown Vibe

By Esther Belin b. 1968 Esther Belin
I.
And Coyote struts down East 14th
feeling good
looking good
feeling the brown
melting into the brown that loiters
rapping with the brown in front of the Native American Health Center
talking that talk
of relocation from tribal nation
of recent immigration to the place some call the United States
home to many dislocated funky brown

ironic immigration

more accurate tribal nation to tribal nation

and Coyote sprinkles corn pollen in the four directions
to thank the tribal people
          indigenous to what some call the state of California
          the city of Oakland
for allowing use of their land.

II.
And Coyote travels by Greyhound from Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA thru
Dinétah
to Oakland, California, USA
laughing
Interstate 40 is cluttered with RVs from as far away as Maine
traveling and traveling
to perpetuate the myth
Coyote kicks back for most of the ride
amused by the constant herd of tourists
amazed by the mythic Indian they create

at a pit stop in Winslow
Coyote trades a worn beaded cigarette lighter for roasted corn
from a middle-aged Navajo woman squatting
in front of a store
 
and Coyote squats alongside the woman
talking that talk
of bordertown blues
of reservation discrimination
 
blues-ing on the brown vibe
a bilagáana snaps a photo
the Navajo woman stands
holding out her hand
requesting some of her soul back
instead
she replaces her soul with a worn picture of George Washington on a dollar bill
 
and Coyote starts on another ear of corn
climbing onto the Greyhound
the woman
still squatting
waiting
tired of learning not to want
waits there for the return of all her pieces.

III.
And Coyote wanders
right into a Ponca sitting at the Fruitvale Bart station
next to the Ponca is a Seminole
Coyote struts up to the two
“Where ya’all from?”
 
the Ponca replies
“Oooklahooma”
pause
the Seminole silent watches a rush of people climb in and out of the train
headed for Fremont
the Seminole stretches his arms up and back stiff from the wooden benches
pause
he pushes his lips out toward the Ponca slowly gesturing that he too is from Oklahoma
Coyote wanders
“where ’bouts?”
 
the Ponca replies
“Ponnca City”
pause
the Seminole replies
“Seminoole”
 
Coyote gestures to the Ponca
“You Ponca?”
the Ponca nods his head in affirmation
Coyote nods his head in content
to the Seminole
Coyote asks
“You Seminole?”
pause
the Seminole now watching some kids eating frozen fruit bars
nods his head
 
and Coyote shares his smokes with the two
and ten minutes later
they travel together on the Richmond train
headed for Wednesday night dinner at the Intertribal Friendship House.
 
IV.
And Coyote blues-ing on the urban brown funk vibe
wanders
in and out of existence
tasting the brown
rusty at times
worn bitter from relocation.

Esther Belin, “Blues-ing on the Brown Vibe” from From the Belly of My Beauty. Copyright © 1999 by Esther Belin. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: From the Belly of My Beauty (University of Arizona Press, 1999)

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Poet Esther Belin b. 1968

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Activities, Travels & Journeys, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Gender & Sexuality, Mythology & Folklore

Biography

A Diné (Navajo) multimedia artist and writer, Esther Belin grew up in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. Her poetry collection, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999), won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.
 
Belin’s parents were relocated from the Southwest in the 1950s as part of the federal Indian relocation . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Gender & Sexuality, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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